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The Art of Sari Draping and Helpful Ladies Everywhere

March 1, 2012

I submit that there may be nothing more humbling to an expat in India than attempting to wear a Sari. From choosing the appropriate sari, to getting the blouse fitted, to remembering to buy a petticoat for underneath (whoops), to the whole ordeal of getting it on, and the ordeal of keeping it on: Saris are not for the faint of heart.

I understand that women who wear them everyday must be pros, and of course that makes sense. But  what is even more impressive to me is that they can do manual labor in them. My maid washes floors and moves furniture…in a sari.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had a notion that I could do this whole sari thing on my own.

And then I learned that it takes, apparently, no less than 8 Indian women (and one Indian man) to get me into, and keep me in, a sari.

1 fabulous friend who to lend me a sari. (Ironically, an American friend)


1 Sri Lankan-American subletter to get me to the fabric store and choose the right fabric for the blouse, to match the border of the sari.

1 back-alley tailor to stitch a blouse in under 24 hours.

The BombayExpat Twitterverse to explain to me why I needed a petticoat, and how to get one:


Once I ran to the tailor, got my blouse, haggled over a 4 dollar petticoat (I KNOWWWWW it should cost 3! Don’t cheat me man!)

And back to the count:

One <5 ft tall maid to drape my sari (this was hilarious, since with my heels on I was more than a foot taller than her)

1 subletter (the same one) to re-drape me from an appropriate height.

1 lovely cook to re-drape me again amid a flurry of abuses (in Hindi) about whoever had originally draped my sari.


(Homegirl is reaaallllly short)

1 hotel receptionist to accompany me to the restroom to RE-DRAPE ME a fourth time, when it came undone dancing

Something amazing about India is that when you need help- it seems to be there. Trying to find a petticoat- I just asked around on the street until I found the tiny little shop. Trying to get draped, I asked my neighbor to send her maid over to help. Learning to walk without dragging the sari? Well, that I had to learn on my own.

But there is something about the sheer population of India which is fascinating. There are people around you all the time, and everyone knows what everyone is up to.  Case in point, the next morning, every shopkeeper on my street commented about how “That aunty told us you wore sari!” “We saw you in sari, looking verrrry nice madame”

And 1 more lovely Indian lady, my flatmate, to lend me this gorgeous sari for the 2nd night of the wedding:




Also, an addendum. I was super nervous about being “exposed” in a sari. Day to day, I’m confident and happy with my appearance. But I wear a 1-piece  bathing suit, because that’s the body I have! So the fear…nay, the TERROR of going to a formal party with my stomach potentially on display? That kept me up at night. But an amazing this about India and the Sari, is that somehow, even when your body is out, it’s not the main event. People are used to it. And also, that drape covers most of your stomach! So to my friends and family who are biting their nails about wearing a sari to my sister’s Indian wedding: it’s actually awesome. And you feel like a fancy princess.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Uma permalink
    March 1, 2012 9:28 pm

    ! You can get clips that help keep the sari in place and the pleats intact ! I’ll get you one for my wedding! Yay

    • March 1, 2012 9:31 pm

      I think part of the problem was that three ladies fiddled with it! The second night it wasn’t a problem. But damn girl, if you’re dealing sari clips….I’ll be first in line! So excited for your wedding. Congratulations again!

  2. Geetha permalink
    March 2, 2012 4:00 am

    That’s cause the second night I draped it for you and I’m a pro! Also, theere was no dancing. Yes I have stumbled upon your blog via facebook.

    • March 2, 2012 6:50 am

      Your pin-at-the-top trick is amazing! and my new go-to. No dancing the 2nd night was kind of a blessing- that one was so much heavier!

  3. March 10, 2012 2:53 pm

    It looks really beautiful on you! And yeah, I remember my first experience with a sari. Such a gorgeous long stretch of material, but now WHAT do I do with it!! 😉

    • March 19, 2012 7:45 am

      Thanks Sharell! WHAT to do with it? I’m always tempted to buy saris as wall hangings…tablecloths…curtains. Some of the most gorgeous material out there- i want them all!

  4. March 14, 2012 2:51 am

    This is one of my fave posts of yours! I love the photos and our Twitter conversation. You look gorgeous in it!

  5. simple simon permalink
    April 11, 2012 3:33 am

    who is that bloke next to you – your teenage brother in law ?

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